Trying to keep a person on task during erratic mood swings may feel like attempting to herd cats, but it’s a necessary part of caring for someone with bipolar disorder.
This takes a particular amount of mental stamina, especially when it comes to caring for someone with an unpredictable mental condition.
As a caregiver, you’ll most likely have to remind your loved one to take medication and other daily tasks. You’ll have to tell him or her to calm down or cheer up. You’ll have to deal with telling the person what to do more often than you would like.
Here are some tips on getting a point across to someone with bipolar disorder (or anyone for that matter) without coming off as bossy.
Compliment While Correcting
If you’re always criticizing a person, they’ll start to think that they don’t do anything right. The important part of helping people improve themselves is affirm positive behavior while trying to curb negative behavior.
Try to avoid using “I love you, but…” because that “but” almost negates the positive emotion. Keep the criticism and compliments in separate sentences, but make sure if there’s some negative that there’s plenty of positives.
Constructive criticism—the kind centered on helping the person with their problems—will always be more powerful than making someone feel bad, wrong, or little.
Do Not Expect Perfection
No human will ever be perfect, even without bipolar disorder. Everyone faces challenges in his or her life and will falter at some point.
If you expect someone to be perfect, they will always fail to live up to your expectations. The same goes if you expect yourself to be perfect.
Bipolar disorder increases a person’s likelihood to make mistakes, especially during the wild points of mania. The more you can accept that your loved one will make mistakes, the easier it will be on everyone.
This is far beyond the strongest point that needs to be emphasized. Patience is key when helping someone cope with any major problem, especially bipolar disorder.
Frustration is a normal part of life. Just as you can’t expect your loved one to be perfect, you shouldn’t expect the same from yourself.
While you might become frustrated with the person you are caring for at times, patience is key in helping maintain long-term positive impact on a person’s life.
If you feel like you’re about to lose your cool, step back from the situation and give yourself a chance to calm down.
Reach a Consensus
You can try to tell someone what to do until you’re blue in the face, but that won’t get much done if the person is in a mood to stand his or her ground or be defiant.
There needs to be some give-and-take when it comes to everything, from deciding who has to do the dishes to when it is acceptable to act out.
The more you make decision making a back-and-forth system, the more you’ll find decision-making situations will
Criticism is a two-way street. If you’re going to be correcting your loved one’s actions, expect some in return.
Your style may not immediately suit the person you are caring for, and no one should have the “my way or the highway” mentality. Try not to take anything too personally.
Because you’re human, you’ll make mistakes. The whole goal is to develop a system that works for everyone.
Don’t Tolerate Abuse
However, that doesn’t mean you should take any kind of abuse. Name-calling, threats, or anything else along those lines should never be tolerated by anyone. If the person gets truly out of hand, you may want to speak to his or her therapist, or, if things get really bad, hospitalization may be in order.